Before she starred in the Netflix show The OA and became known as a jill of all trades, balancing a successful music career with acting, going to school for psychology, and starting a family, Sharon Van Etten was a Brooklyn-based singer/songwriter on the cusp of becoming an indie star but still years away from wider recognition. For the 10th anniversary reissue of her breakthrough second LP epic (purposely stylized in lowercase), the original release is combined with interpretations by a diverse cavalcade of artists ranging from veterans like Lucinda Williams and Fiona Apple (who does an excellent version of album closer "Love More") to younger artists like Courtney Barnett and Shamir, whose angelic version of "Dsharpg" is an absolute stunner and the highlight of the entire set. British post-punk ragers IDLES' aggro take on "Peace Signs" works surprisingly well as it's the furthest away from the style of the original whereas most of the other covers don't deviate quite as far afield.
Sharon Van Etten opens her second album, epic, in a register of grounded wisdom. "To say the things I want to say to you would be a crime/To admit I'm still in love with you after all this time," Van Etten declares on "A Crime." She weaves her verse into a tangle of seduction and toxicity before landing on a clear thought that becomes a promise and a refrain: "Never let myself love like that again." Van Etten sings herself into and out of these seven self-preserving words. Each syllable becomes a life raft for anyone who needs it.
Breathing life into lifeless spaces.
Sharon Van Etten's epic is the best album ever made. Not 'objectively', or whatever, but once I'm waist deep in the album's intoxicating, speech-defying, utterly unique world it's all the same to me.
Photo by Jen Rosenstein With Epic, Sharon van Etten emerged from the ghostly confines of acid folk into a denser, more propelling, classic rock sound. It was the first inkling that the singer might be aiming for something louder, harder and commercially bigger than a critically acclaimed Light in the Attic reissue a couple of decades down the road, and it set her off on a path of omnivorous collaboration and eerie but accessible art, not quite the mainstream but close. Now, ten years later, BaDaBing celebrates its one-time publicist with a two-disc retrospective of that breakthrough album, half of it dedicated to the original songs and half to covers by some remarkably well-known artists.